MIR’s 30 Years: Back in the U.S.S.R. (VIDEO)
(Douglas Grimes is co-founder and president of MIR Corporation.)
Our company, MIR Corporation, is celebrating 30 memorable years of travel beyond anything we could have imagined, back when we first organized and led citizen exchanges, including a group of volleyball players to the U.S.S.R. After those initial successes in the mid-1980s, it seemed natural to turn our passion for travel into a business where we could share the Soviet Union with other intrepid travelers. Yet, there was a point when we weren’t sure MIR would last more than five years, back in the U.S.S.R. days of 1991, when the Soviet Union was turned on its head:
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In these citizen exchanges, we arranged multi-city tours which spanned the territory of the U.S.S.R., with opportunities for participants to have deep round-table discussions with their professional counterparts. The meaningful and intense dialogue often resulted in friendships forged and lasting professional and personal connections. It was challenging and hard work, but for us at MIR in 1991 we felt we were closing the gap between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., and opening people’s minds up to viewing their professional counterparts as real people – personal friends, not enemies – and the Soviet Union as a richly complex and history-laden country, and not the “Evil Empire.”
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After the 1991 coup, many of the Soviet organizations we worked with – on both sides – either shut down or stopped participating in citizen exchanges, and that’s how the bulk of MIR’s business dried up. We were faced with a fateful decision: Should MIR call it quits?
After much reflection, we chose to retool and move forward.
(Click on photo for larger version and caption: (first row) Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus; (second row) Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan; (third row) Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania; (fourth row) Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan; (fifth row) Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan)
I am deeply humbled by all that has taken place at MIR in these 30 years since we began to plan that early U.S.-Soviet citizen exchange in 1986, focused on my life-long passion: volleyball. MIR has exceeded all my expectations of what I thought possible back then, back in the U.S.S.R. and its chilly Cold War days. We’ve expanded from one country, the Soviet Union, to 35 at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. MIR makes it possible to see places in this world that may otherwise seem difficult, remote and unreachable. Our travelers tell us MIR tours and custom journeys make them feel more connected and engaged with the places they see and the people they meet – and often befriend – along the way.
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Do I wish I could go back to the U.S.S.R. and those 1980s early days of Cold War travel? They are great memories with enduring nostalgia, but I prefer looking forward to the future and all that lies ahead in the next three decades for me, for MIR, and for MIR’s intrepid travelers.
More on “MIR’s 30 Years”
Learn more about “MIR’s 30 Years” in the stories below, all embedded with videos. They include MIR’s beginnings and the mindset and mission of MIR’s president and co-founder, Douglas Grimes; MIR’s utterly unique travel offerings at the crossroads of Europe and Asia; and Siberia, one of MIR’s favorites specialties.
- “Imagine Your Journey with MIR” (story); view video – MIR’s 30-year expertise in making dream trips come true.
- “198os Volleyball Diplomacy, and MIR’s Beginning” (story); view video – Volleyball is the game changer: a young Douglas Grimes dreams big, and his (MIR) world changes forever.
- “Back in the U.S.S.R.” (story); view video – Traveling back in time to MIR’s mid-1980s beginning, and a watershed decision.
MIR’s One-of-a-Kind Journeys
- “Handcrafted Journeys: Making MIR Movies” (story); view video – MIR’s memorable custom, private journeys are akin to making movies, including tracing family history “back in the old country.”
- “Epic Journeys: Ultimate Dream Trips” (story); view video – MIR’s adventurous overland expeditions include one Canadian couple’s extensive yearly travels, from driving along the Silk Road to motoring through China, Siberia, and the Balkans.
- “Beyond the Stars, Inside the Russian Space Program” (story); view video – MIR President Douglas Grimes’ favorite tour harkens back to the U.S.-Soviet space race, from exploring Star City’s once-classified cosmonaut training facility to witnessing the manned launch of a Soyuz spacecraft.
- “Overland Expeditions: Roving the World in Land Rovers” (story); view Land Rovers video – Land-roving at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, MIR creates an ambitious itinerary for 54 participants and 18 vehicles, from Kazakhstan to Turkey.
Siberia, A MIR Specialty
- “Why I’m Sold on Siberia” (story); view video – Countless reasons why MIR President Douglas Grimes loves this vast, pristine place.
- “Siberia’s Beauty of Lake Baikal” (story); view video – MIR President Douglas Grimes’ lasting memories of this legendary lake in Siberia.
- “Overland Expeditions: Channeling Siberia and Beyond” (story); view video – One of MIR President Douglas Grimes’ early (ad)ventures into Siberia with one channeler, her five dozen followers, and their six sacred crystals.
- “Overland Expeditions: Driving Siberia and Beyond” (story); view video – MIR helps intrepid motorists re-create the 1908 automotive Great Race in their 1928 vintage car, down to gas station locations in Siberia and tricky border crossings.
- “Overland Expeditions: Running Through Russia and Beyond” (story); view video – MIR’s extraordinary logistics for 79 runners and support personnel, running 5,500 miles from Eastern Europe to China via Russia and Siberia, all to promote safer drinking water.
- “Overland Expeditions: Total Solar Eclipse in Siberia” (story); view video – MIR prepares three years in advance to bring more than 300 travelers – “sun chasers” – to the heart of Siberia for a rare total solar eclipse.
MIR, in a Nutshell
- “MIR in a Nutshell” (story) – Compact and concise, here’s everything you need to know about MIR on one page.
(Top photo: Hammer & sickle along with a Kremlin red star: symbols of the C.C.C.P., the U.S.S.R. Photo credit: Helge Pedersen)
PUBLISHED: October 6, 2016